June 6, 1944 was a seminal date in American, and in Jewish history. The “long-awaited yet dreaded invasion” in the words of IJN writer Phyllis Bernstein Brill in the June 9, 1944 issue, led to the defeat of Nazism in Europe and the liberation of many concentration camps in Western Europe.
Denver’s Jewish community recognized the moment for the “spine-tingling news” — again, Brill’s words — that it was.
The newspaper reports that “Special evening services were held at the B.M.H. Synagogue, Temple Emanuel and the Hebrew Educational Alliance.”
Rabbi Charles Kauvar (BMH): “The thrilling hour of invasion is a solemn moment in the history of the world. We paraphrase the thought of the prophet Isaiah. Lo, this is the day for which we have waited. May the L-rd save us, and give salvation to the world.”
Rabbi Manuel Laderman (HEA): “The invasion is the beginning of the liberation of Europe . . . The Jews of Europe must be anxiously awaiting the forces that will lift the yoke of oppression and we, their co-religionists in America, share their hope for freedom.”
Rabbi Herbert Friedman (Emanuel): “Millions of freedom-loving men, temporarily enslaved, but awaiting with baited breath the hour of their release, huddled close around their radios to catch the words of their leaders who were giving them new hope.”
Peruse that issue of the Intermountain Jewish News, or any during the war, and it is eminently clear how much the local Jewish community cared. From war bond drives, to buying IJN subscriptions for servicemen stationed in Colorado, to a drive collecting information about “Denver’s Jewish warriors.”
And the stories! Extensive news coverage of the war fills these pages. Some of the events covered are major and still talked about today, such as the invasion itself, but it is remarkable how many stories are today forgotten. Such as the June 16 story about the Wichita, Kan. evangelist-publisher with ties to Julius Streicher, publisher of the vile anti-Semitic Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer. Gerald B. Winrod’s name came up in the context of a 1944 “mass sedition conspiracy case” with 29 defendants. Anyone today even know about this trial?
Or how about the story about the ship filled with Jewish refugees that was stopped by a German submarine? The story of the ill-fated MS St. Louis is widely known, probably because many of its passengers ended up being killed during the Holocaust after the countries that allowed their settlement — after the ship in 1930 was turned away by Cuba and the US — were later occupied by the Nazis. But who has heard of the Serpa Pinto? The Portuguese liner had 74 Jewish refugees aboard, bound for Canada. And while 71 of them eventually made landfall in Canada, their trip was hazardous. “It was stopped by a Nazi submarine,” as reported in the June 9 IJN. “The passengers were ordered into lifeboats, and remained there for eight hours, tossed on the high seas, while the Nazi commander was querying Berlin on whether to sink the ship. During this time, three passengers died.”
Seventy-nine years after D-Day, we know those rabbis’ prayers in 1944 were answered.
This online feature explores the IJN’s new digital archive, discovering the news of the week, years ago.